Update 08/03/2017: More recent research and statistics have been added, as well as updating old links.
You’ve probably heard the statistics: Projects fail, often dramatically. For example, less than a third (or even less) of all projects are completed on-time and within budget. 75% of IT executives think their projects are “doomed right from the beginning.”
What if I said that six common mistakes project managers make directly correlate with project failures? What if I said that all these mistakes can be avoided? All of these mistakes can be avoided by project planning.
These are the 6 mistakes to avoid when creating project schedules
Planning and scheduling are crucial to the success of any project. These project management errors can be fatal, whether you are using Gantt charts or the critical path method.
They should be avoided at all costs.
Mistake #1: Not defining your project’s purpose
According to the Project Management Institute, one-third of all project failures are due to ineffective communication. While project managers should have a plan for communication while the project is in progress, the first step of any project should be to establish the purpose and goals of the project and communicate them to the team.
Managing Projects writes
Don’t be fooled! Before a team can create a schedule, they must first have a clear understanding of the project’s purpose and agreed on goals. They also need to decide on the best course of action to achieve those goals.
Before you even begin the scheduling process, make sure to communicate with your team why this project is important, what it will do for the company, and the goals.
#1 Mistake: Not establishing requirements
Although your vision may be clear, it is important to determine what requirements must be included in your project planning.
Many, including Duncan Haughey, ProjectSmart, believe project managers should receive a written statement from the customer.
He wrote, “This document is a guideline to the requirements for the project.” Once you have created your statement of requirements, make sure the customer and all other stakeholders sign it. Make sure they understand that you have promised to deliver it.
This puts scope-change risk onto the customer and your team.
You may have difficulty establishing requirements if your team works in Agile. However, a starter list will give you a framework for your project, giving you structure and allowing you to plan.
3. Mistake: Get your estimates from no one
You’ll have trouble meeting deadlines if you don’t communicate with your team or are too optimistic about your estimates.
Meet with your team to discuss their ability to take on the project and what each team member or leader expects of themselves. You can use project management software to generate reports on past productivity and use these measurements to determine what your team is capable.
4. Mistake: Under pressure from stakeholders, giving inaccurate estimates
We’ve all been there. You know you can’t have a report done by Thursday but you promise it anyway due to managerial pressure. Everyone is exhausted, stressed, sloppy and ultimately disappointed by Thursday’s end. This is a mistake you want to avoid at all cost.
There is a fine line between setting unrealistic goals and setting high expectations. While you will do your best to meet stakeholder requirements, it is important to take the time to assess the risks associated with pushing deadlines so hard. If it is impossible, everyone involved, including your team, will be appr